The Grapevine

Should Your Wine Shop Be Selling Online?

March 8th, 2016

More and more American consumers are buying more and more wine online. Should you jump into the ecommerce fray? [level-members]

There’s no short answer to that question which would cover every shop’s circumstances. And though we could write a book on evaluating ecommerce for your wine business, it really comes down to one question: can you serve your market better online, and can you do it better than the competition?

If you are running a typical “Main Street” wine shop, the answer is almost certainly that you cannot compete online against the existing competition. For better or worse, the web is a big place. And it’s a place that puts information at the fingertips of any consumer who cares to look for it. So, not only can they find comparisons of various wines at a particular price point, they can find who is selling the wine they want the cheapest.

Unless you game is volume, volume, volume, you’re not going to be competitive across the board.

 Now, you can change that equation by specializing. Become known for old-world style wines from France and Italy. Be the California cult Cabernet expert. Specialize in South American wines. Even if your physical shop is much broader, tightly targeting your online store is a much more likely way to succeed.

Not everyone wants to do that, of course, and if you don’t, ecommerce is probably not for you unless you want to make a seven-figure investment in building and marketing a state-of-the-art web presence.

All that said, you might consider adding a product catalog to your website and allow customers to place orders online and complete the transaction in the shop. (You can also do ecommerce for your customers, for pick up or delivery, though the costs may make it difficult to justify.)

Ecommerce is tough to dip your toes into these days. Success is only likely if you make a commitment to it and devote significant resources to it. If that seems risky, stick to your knitting. There’s plenty of profit to be made from a well-run “Main Street” wine shop.